By James Gao
No matter how much Bill de Blasio has achieved as the mayor of New York City, he is still uniquely unqualified for his position for one reason: he doesn’t root for the Yankees. In a terrible twist of irony, the leader of the five boroughs and its immense population of proud hometown supporters is a diehard Red Sox fan. A few weeks ago, when the Yankees were one game away from defeating the Houston Astros and qualifying for the World Series, de Blasio sent New Yorkers into a frenzy by claiming, “It is constitutionally impossible for me to ‘support’ the New York Yankees.”
The lines between sports and politics are becoming increasingly blurred as time goes on, and de Blasio’s Yankee-supporting controversy proves to be no exception. Attacks from opposing mayoral candidates blasted the incumbent as being “disrespectful” and “a poor representative of New York”, with some constituents even arguing that de Blasio’s lack of support could hurt the advertising revenue that the Yankees bring to the city. But for some inhabitants of New York, the firestorm provided little more than an opportunity to tell the mayor what they really thought about his term; one scathing critic commented, “Just like everything else he’s done for the city, Bill de Blasio isn’t really for us.”
Unfortunately for Yankee-lovers and de Blasio critics alike, New York City’s 109th mayor isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. On November 7th, 2017, liberals cheered as de Blasio retained his position, contributing to sizeable Democratic victories in New Jersey and Virginia. With a sizeable margin of victory - 67%, compared to 23% for opposing Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis, de Blasio has interpreted his resounding victory as a “mandate for his progressive policies” that have marked his first term as mayor. From implementing a free pre-school program for all four year-olds in the city to revamping the city’s affordable housing initiatives to ending the “stop and frisk” policies that have seen NYPD officers accused of racial profiling, de Blasio has forged a blazing trail as an effective, if not quiet, advocate for a more left-leaning New York City. From an objective standpoint, Bill de Blasio has been a blessing to New York City. Profiting from a revitalized economy and decreased crime, America’s largest city is in a much better state than it was four years ago.
However, his success is not without its own caveats. De Blasio was able to claim a decisive victory on Election Night, but it’s worth noting that the strength of his re-election is marred by low voter turnout; of the eligible voters in the five boroughs, less than twenty-five percent turned out to vote for the mayor. In fact, this may be part of a larger problem for Bill de Blasio’s personal legacy and political swaying power as a whole: if people can’t rally around their leader, then they’re less likely to be strong supporters of his policies. He’s been labelled as “America’s most irrelevant mayor”, with approval ratings hovering at about fifty percent. He is, essentially, a nobody - so much so to the degree that he, one of America’s most important mayors, has to wear a nametag to his meetings. The “progressive defender” of New York is widely scorned on a personal level - supporting the Red Sox, eating pizza with a fork and knife, and habitually oversleeping and arriving late to his events contributes to his deeply rooted unpopularity. The National Review sums up his political character aptly: “The tallest man in any room is somehow the most pathetic man in it.”
While Bill de Blasio has accumulated a reputation as what essentially amounts to the derpiest mayor in America, his troubles extend far past the outer limits of the city and into Albany, where he has a troubled relationship with Governor Andrew Cuomo. While de Blasio and Cuomo are both Democrats, their similarities end there. The mayor has found few allies on the state level, and the two men have openly sparred over policy issues in the past. De Blasio begged Cuomo to help pay for free preschool in the city; Cuomo openly refused and retaliated by blaming the mayor for the city’s subway problems. De Blasio bit back by suggesting that Albany levy a new “millionaire tax” to help pay for subway improvements, but Cuomo condemned the proposal as “dead on arrival.” According to political insiders, the feud between the two men battling for “New York’s Top Progressive” is deeply personal, comparable to something out of a soap opera. But regardless of its roots, it poses a significant political obstacle for de Blasio in his upcoming term. One of de Blasio’s main goals for the city - a new sixteen-mile trolley connector between Brooklyn and Queens’ waterfronts - could be shuttered by a steely, unsympathetic Cuomo. The ambitious Brooklyn-Queens connector may turn out to be little more than a pipe dream if Cuomo does not grant the city permission to cross sections of state-owned land. De Blasio wants to solve the crises facing New York City, but in order to do that as quickly and efficiently as possible, he has to solve his own crisis with Albany first.
The mayor has also come under fire for fundraising policies that have been, to say the least, questionable. He was only recently cleared of criminality in federal investigations that saw accusations of de Blasio making policy promises to major campaign donors in his 2013 bid for mayor; the FBI essentially concluded that his policies were “shady, but technically legal”. Controversy stirred again just two weeks before the election when Jona Rechnitz, a former real estate investor who was recently convicted of conspiracy and bribery, stepped forward to claim that he had “bought access” to City Hall by exchanging favors and meetings with city officials through campaign donations. De Blasio vehemently denied the allegations, and no charges were pressed - but the incident only further contributed to his unfavorable perception from New Yorkers.
Even ignoring his problems with Andrew Cuomo and allegations against his campaign finance, de Blasio faces another challenge: making good on his promise to close Rikers Island, New York’s main jail complex - and an emblem of the United States’ failing justice system. Infamous for its poor living conditions and abuse of prisoners, de Blasio released his plan to close the Bronx’s “elephant in the room” over ten years by replacing them with smaller jails for each borough. The process will be tedious, and de Blasio will be long departed from the mayor’s office before the jail closes for good - but he must persevere in pursuing his vision for a New York City untainted by Rikers.
At the end of the day, although New Yorkers haven’t warmed up to de Blasio, they still entrusted him with the power to lead New York for the next four years. De Blasio may be “unlovable” to his constituents, but he is certainly a man who will get things done. From his love of the Red Sox to his six-foot-five stature, there are many quirks that define New York City’s mayor. But above all, Bill de Blasio is defined by his ambition and his progressive policies,the principles that will guide him as he enters his second term.